A review of a joint arrangement between Plymouth and Torbay councils to share a Director of Children’s Services has concluded that each authority now needs its own director to provide more strategic capacity.
The arrangement has seen a joint director, who was previously the Director in Plymouth, overseeing children’s services in both authorities to support the delivery of Children’s Services in Torbay.
The joint arrangement started last year following a recommendation, which was agreed by all parties, to the Department for Education by John Coughlan, Torbay Children’s Commissioner and Chief Executive of Hampshire County Council, which is Torbay’s Children’s Services improvement partner.
Since July 2018, the joint director has had full operational responsibility for both Torbay and Plymouth’s Children’s Services, including education and social care functions, though political responsibility has remained with each authority.
The joint annual review carried out by the Department for Education and Plymouth and Torbay councils in October considered the progress, achievements and challenges during this period, as well as the prospect for further, sustainable improvements in the future.
The review acknowledged that all parties had worked hard to support the joint arrangement and that some progress had been made. However, it was recognised that there is a need to significantly increase pace to bring about the substantial improvements still needed in Torbay’s children’s social care services and a need in Plymouth to focus on improvements in the education system.
Given this, and the scale of the challenges facing children’s services, the councils have therefore jointly concluded that each authority requires a dedicated full time Director of Children’s Services to provide the necessary strategic, visible leadership. The Department for Education supports this decision.
The leaders and lead members in each authority have remained strongly committed to improving children’s services and relationships have been supportive and productive.
Cooperation between Plymouth and Torbay will continue and this will include maintaining the recently established Joint Strategic Safeguarding Partnership. The councils are working closely with the Department of Education to ensure a safe and smooth transition to the new arrangements for children and staff and Torbay Council children’s services will remain under government intervention.
A recommendation to end the joint arrangement and revert to each authority having a dedicated Director of Children’s Services is due to be considered by Plymouth’s Cabinet at its meeting on 11 November.